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It's not really on a hill top but Mrs Potter loved it
Hill Top Farm (Cumbria, England)
Member Name: blissman70
Hill Top Farm (Cumbria, England)
Date: 04/09/11, updated on 05/09/11 (48 review reads)
Advantages: interesting, tranquil, historical, educational and very polite, professional guides
Disadvantages: not really wheelchair friendly
I have been visiting a few National Trust places recently, mainly due to the fact that I became a member a few months back so I thought I'd put some fuel in the car, (which is pretty expensive these days so getting into places for free is a boon), and not only educate myself and my children but have a fun day out as well.
Firstly, for those people who have never heard of the National Trust, I can tell you that they are an organisation that own several properties and land, be it through donations, purchase or 'care-taking', through out the UK. There aim is to keep the properties and gardens in good order and to do this they open up the properties and gardens to the general public, at a cost of course. This in turn allows the public to learn about the history of the UK and it's buildings and land.
One such property which the Trust own, due to a donation, is called Hill Top, and was the setting of many a books created by the word famous Beatrix Potter.
And for those people who have never heard of Beatrix Potter, she was born in London in the summer of 1866 and began writing short stories for children.
As a child she holidayed in the Lake District with her family and fell in love with the beautiful surrounding that she came upon. So, using money she earned from her books, together with money that was left to her from an Aunt, she bought several properties in and around the Lake District in order to stop any building development spoiling the scenery, eventually buying Hill Top in 1906.
When she died she donated them to the National Trust with the intentions that the properties would remain as they were and would not be sold off. This was her way of keeping the Lake District exactly as she loved it, small hamlets, beautiful quaint buildings and gorgeous scenery.
In all, when she died, she donated over £210,000, 14 farms and over 4000 acres of land to the National Trust.
As for her writing, well her books have become world famous, translated into many different language for all to enjoy, creating animal characters such as Samuel Whiskers, Jemima Puddleduck and her most famous character being Peter Rabbit. With many of her ideas coming from the many things she could see around Hill Top's house and garden, such as rabbits running around the grass, ducking under fences into the farm on the other side, taking the fresh carrots and being chased by the farmer. This may or may not have happened in real life but in her imagination it certainly did.
Anyway, straying from the path a little there, so back to Hill Top itself.
** WHAT EXACTLY IS HILL TOP..?
Well, to be honest, Hill Top is a normal looking house, (sort of), with a normal sized garden, and in fact could actually be walked passed if it wasn't for the small signs stating what it is.
The house contains a few rooms, such as a living room, kitchen and bedroom, which were all used by Beatrix Potter when she lived there. Whilst the garden is split into sections, such as a vegetable plot and lovely colourful flower beds.
The house and garden was donated to the National Trust by Beatrix in 1944 on the proviso that it was never to be sold off and that it should remain as it was, to which the National Trust took the latter literally, leaving the interior exactly as it was when she Beatrix was last there.
There is not a lot more to say about the house and gardens as they aren't the usual National Trust properties, it is not a grand castle with ornamentally designed turrets, nor is it a massive hall with more rooms than a 5 star hotel, it is simply a house with a garden where a certain well known writer chose to spend her days creating children's book for all to enjoy.
** WHERE IS IT THEN...
You can find information about Hill Top on websites such as the National Trust, but briefly it is situated in a small Hamlet called Near Sawrey, (SatNav... LA22 0LF), which is a couple of miles outside of Ambleside and a short ferry ride from Bowness on Windermere.
You can get there by car along the B5285, by bus, on the cross lake experience from pier3 in Bowness or the 505 from Hawksheaad. Or by foot along a well trodden path from the Ferry.
** OPENING TIMES...
The opening time vary depending on the season, but the house is always closed on a Friday, although the garden and shop are open daily.
The house 'visits' are on a timed ticket system so that the house is never over crowded.
National trust members can get in for free
Access to the garden is free during opening hours
Other information can be found at the National Trust website.
** MY OPINION...
I've visited many grand places owned and run by the National Trust, wandering around some splendid castle, halls and gardens, so I knew that a trip around Hill Top was not going to take too long to get around, and it didn't.
But, even though it took a fraction of the time to get around than your normal National Trust property, it was still a remarkable place to see with some very interesting history to get to know.
The actual place itself is not that well advertised, compared to some other National Trust properties, maybe this is down to the fact that the small village is as it always was and putting up big brown signs would spoil the area. But you will know when you're there due to the mass of people standing outside along the road, a lot of them being Japanese, as for some reason they simply love Beatrix Potter and her little books of joy.
When we got there we parked up in the small car park, which was almost full when we got there and there was still a long queue of cars waiting to find somewhere to park.
There are only about thirty or so spaces which can become filled very quickly, and with very limited parking around the area itself the busy season can be very difficult finding somewhere to actually park.
The ticket office and information centre is set just off this car park, this looks like it was either an old barn or maybe an old cottage, but has now been converted and contains a desk and some information on the walls. Then you have to follow the road toward Hill Top itself after you have bought the tickets, this is about 150 metres and as there are no real footpaths, and some passing drivers seem to be practicing for the next grand prix, this walk should be taken with care.
Then we carefully headed along the road, towards the house, arriving there in a matter of a minute or so, with it only being a short distance away, then we headed into the garden itself.
To get into the garden you can either walk through the gift shop or walk around the outside of it, I chose the latter so my kids wouldn't want to borrow the contents of my wallet yet again.
Once we were in the garden we walked along the narrow paths, and I mean narrow, so you will have to pause and maybe lean to one side when someone needs to pass you.
As we walked along the path I was in awe at the myriad of colours blooming from the flowers which were beautifully placed all over, (although the blooming depends on what season you go in). Then, heading to the house, which was at the far end of the path, I came across the vegetable plot, which was hidden behind a small wall and a very rickety looking gate, and was filled with the vegetables which I knew Beatrix Potter had once grown and eaten, although the rabbits would have munched on many of the fresh food from the gardens.
It was walking through the garden that made me think just how the scenery around me had made such an impact on Beatrix's books, surrounded by the beautiful scenery and watching the many rabbits calmly eating the grass.
The garden there are many flowers with some lovely colouring and smells, such as lavender, lupins, Philadelphia and more. Then there's the many fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries and the like
The house itself, at the end of the path way, although you can see it as you walk along. It doesn't look like much from the front, or the sides come to think about it, with its rough looking grey brown walls, dark green window frames with small squares of glass, the solid looking dark front door being covered by a strange shaped canopy and a rickety looking wooden bench sitting just outside. But this small, almost strange looking house contains something rather special indeed, a story that tells us a few things about the life of the well known writer Miss Beatrix Potter.
When we actually arrived at the house we only had to wait a matter of minutes until our timed ticket time came about, so we went in.
As we entered the house we were greeted by a guide who offers us a Beatrix Potter book from a pile behind the door in order so that you can see how much Beatrix's books are written around the house itself. How many of her s drawings and descriptions are actual taken from with in the house itself.
She gently explained to my kids about how the rats had gnawed away the bottom of the table legs in the kitchen, showing them that the tables remained exactly the same, with the rats gnawing marks still there. She also told my kids other stories about the house and Mrs Potter and how it took her so long to write one of her books due to the fact that she spent most of the time chasing and catching 93 rats who were running around her house... I think she said 93, I know it was a lot. Just imagine that many rats running around such a small place.
Each room had many lovely features, such as the rat bitten table in the dining room/kitchen. Also in that room there is a teapot on a dressing table which has not been moved since Beatrix was there, (allegedly).
In the room just off the kitchen there is more furniture such as a desk where she wrote her books, a few chairs and a rather welcoming window seat, which I could almost see myself sitting at, looking out over the garden.
When we climbed the narrow staircase we came upon the bedrooms, one of them having a small four-poster bed in it, another looking more like a small office where a bureau and chair stood proudly amongst the furniture.
And each room had several pictures of Beatrix and her family hanging on the walls.
The building itself allegedly remains exactly as Beatrix Potter left it when she died in 1943, apart from the odd bit of feather dusting, leaving even a teapot exactly where Miss Potter left it.
The lady at the front door of the house itself was so professional and so helpful, lending my kids a books which she took from a pile behind the front door, explaining which pages led to each room, telling them the story of the many rats that had chewed to bottoms of the legs on the dining table and how Beatrix had spent an age writing a certain book due to the many rats that she had to deal with when she first moved in, and there were a lot.
She explained how the books related to the house and how Beatrix spent her time writing and chasing rats away. Talking to the children with so much knowledge and in such a way that even my kids were intrigued as they hung on her every word.
Even asking my youngest daughter questions about what she had seen around the house, such as what she thought the mattresses were made of? Explaining to her that the mattresses were not filled with straw but were actually filled with...??? I won't tell you just in case you don't know and you want to visit here to find the answer.
Unfortunately, it is not really a place for wheel chairs as there are some steep steps into the garden itself, the paths along the garden are narrow and the building itself is quite small indeed, with steep steps leading to the second floor.
And as for toilets, these are situated in a small hut inside the garden area, plus, there's some in the local pub, the Tower Bank arms, which offers a very nice meal indeed.
Although the house was on a timed ticket system once we were in we didn't feel rushed at all as we walked around, climbing the stairs to see how the creator of Peter Rabbit and his furry friends had once lived.
And as for a nice energetic way of getting there, I was chatting to a couple who had walked there, after coming off the ferry from Bowness on Windermere, (60p one way), and had told that the walk to Hill Top was quite a pleasant one, passing Claife Heights as they went, taking about forty minutes at a gentle pace. So next time I'm staying in or around Bowness I may have to walk this way.
* ADDED BONUS...
Outside the main grounds themselves, in the village of Near Sawrey, there are a few other things to see, such as when I was last there my kids had the chance to have there pictures taken with a scarecrow which was sat in a seat outside the Buckle Yeat guest house. This scarecrow was supposed to resemble Mr McGreggor, this photograph is for the cost of a donation which went to help the MacMillan foundation. The scarecrow, sorry, Mr McGregor can look quite scary to some younger kids, with his long white beard and floppy legs, but it does look funny in a way
And when looking for something to eat we decided to have a bite to eat in the Tower Bank Arms, which is mentioned on one of Beatrix's books, as we had heard that the food there was nice. But nice was not the word, the word should have been 'delicious' as the food served was mouth watering and very 'morish' indeed, but this review is not about the Tower Bank Arms.
Again, I'm wavering from the house itself, so I'll simply say, if you like historical properties, or you simply like the author Beatrix Potter herself, and you're anywhere near Bowness on Windermere or Ambleside one day, then this little house is a must to visit. It may not be as big as other National Trust properties and you certainly can't make a full day of it wandering around the grounds, but it is a fascinating place to visit with a lot to offer.
I know £17.50 for a family ticket does sound a bit excessive, considering the size of the place, but it's worth a look, just to see for yourself how Mrs Potter came about her ideas which have entertained many children for many years.
Summary: 20,000 Japanese tourist can't be wrong.
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